If you want to learn more about mental illness or simply want to feel understood, tune into Talking Mental, a new Hong Kong podcast that dispels myths and keeps it real
Living in a compact and fast-paced city like Hong Kong, it’s important to understand why we need to address mental health in Hong Kong as well as how to talk about mental health. Whether you’re suffering from depression and constantly trying to run away from your suicidal thoughts, or struggling to deal with anxiety like influencer Coco Chan, there are people out there who understand. Recently, we sat down with Aaron Stadlin-Robbie, who started the podcast Talking Mental, to chat about why he felt it was time to help raise awareness of mental health and address stigmas surrounding it.
An interview with Aaron Stadlin-Robbie, host of Talking Mental
Hi, Aaron. Thanks for sitting down with us. How did Talking Mental come about?
I’ve been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks for six years. For the first year, I went to a hospital when I was in China but I was misdiagnosed. They told me it was a vitamin B12 deficiency. I was later introduced to a psychiatrist in Hong Kong and he told me that I actually had anxiety and panic attacks. It was the way that he was so calm and it was so common that it was kind of a relief for me. Because I had been dealing with a problem on my own and not really knowing what it really was.
After a few years of understanding it and learning how to deal with it, I realised talking about it really benefited me. I challenged myself to do it on a public forum, do something where you have the opportunity to speak to people you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to speak to. Because getting help in Hong Kong is not easy to find and it isn’t affordable. This is an opportunity for me to speak to a lot of these people and also help myself to get better.
What does it feel like to have a panic attack?
I just feel like I’m going to get hit by a bus very quickly and that I’m about to faint and have a heart attack. That was the weirdest thing, but nothing was wrong with me. There was no pain and it wasn’t until I can describe how I feel, and to the right person, then they can make the correct diagnosis.
How is Talking Mental structured?
I decided to do a guest-based interview where I interview people that I think are going to be important to myself getting better, from psychiatrists to nutritionist to sleep and sex therapists. We’ll have maybe fifteen episodes in this season. I didn’t want to record them all at once, because I want audience participation. People can ask questions, so it’s live and up-to-date.
People in Hong Kong seem reluctant to talk about mental health, because it’s still stigmatised, what do you think about that?
That’s so true. I’ve seen that in Hong Kong particularly with people that I know who do suffer from depression. Their family don’t know what to do, and they put them in places that don’t really treat the issue. It’s like out of sight, out of mind. They don’t know how to talk to their depressed son or daughter, so they just let someone else to deal with it. Actually it’s not that difficult to talk about, it’s just the problem that we don’t have enough knowledge and we don’t feel secured to talk about it. But when you do talk about it, I think the stigma is bigger than the actual topic. We need talk about it in a way that is trying to break it.
Do you still take medicine?
I used to take pills when I was first diagnosed. But I haven’t in three, four years but it did help initially. I think there is some medication that is good, some medication that isn’t. You have to trust the person who is giving it to you and how they can justify what the medicine is for, instead of someone who just says, “take this and you’ll be okay”. My psychiatrist who prescribed me with medicine told me exactly why I need it, how long I need it for and how I’m going to get off of it and why it’s important.
How do you deal with your anxiety and panic attacks personally?
Through trial and error. I listen to a lot of podcasts and music especially when I’m dealing with anxiety. During a panic attack, I think there is nothing you can do and you just wait until it is over. Because it’s so strong and so intense that you’re not thinking rationally, it’s fight or flight. There is nothing you can do when it’s happening, but there are things that you can do to prevent it from happening. Drink less, sleep better, eat better, be more active.
Sometimes it’s just hard to stay active all the time even though you know it’s the right thing to do, and you can’t help but wallow in self-pity.
I’ve been in those moments where you just don’t want to leave the house. That’s okay because it could be daunting to leave. What helps you determine whether you’re staying one night at home or six nights at home is having a good support system. If you don’t have close friends or family to talk to, you’ll be in your own head and you’ll never leave. But if you have people who actually care and listen, they’ll be there and help you come out of the house. They’ll also know when you don’t want to come out and they’ll stay with you at home.
How should one be a good friend to someone who suffers from mental illness?
Listen and don’t make it weird. You don’t have to cure the problems and you don’t have to give them all the answers. You just need to let them know that they have support.
Listen to the Talking Mental podcast here
Checked out Talking Mental and looking for more things to do in Hong Kong? Grab your next read at these Hong Kong bookstores, take up a pottery class at Deer Workshop or find out where to go hiking in Hong Kong.